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Mothers' voices help preemies eat better

A mother's voice helps her premature baby.
A mother's voice helps her premature baby.
César Rincón on Flickr

Premature babies eat better when using pacifiers with recordings of their mothers' voices, according to researchers at Vanderbilt University. Babies using the musical pacifiers ate more often and developed stronger sucking actions, reports the study published February 17.

“A mother’s voice is a powerful auditory cue,” said study author Nathalie Maitre, M.D., Ph.D. "Babies know and love their mother’s voice. It has proven to be the perfect incentive to help motivate these babies.”

Researchers monitored 94 infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Forty-six of the babies were given special pacifiers. If the infants sucked correctly, the pacifiers played a song recorded by their mothers. If the infants stopped sucking, the song stopped. Researchers observed several benefits in the infants using the special pacifiers including:

  • earlier removal of feeding tubes
  • more frequent feedings
  • stronger sucking abilities
  • shorter hospitalizations

“The benefits are both medical and emotional as this is a unique way for parents to directly help their children learn a skill crucial to their growth and development,” Maitre said. “It gives parents a small amount of control to improve their baby’s medical course, in addition to giving them a bonding experience which will last throughout childhood.”

The study, "A Pacifier-Activated Music Player With Mother’s Voice Improves Oral Feeding in Preterm Infants," is published in Pediatrics.

More information on this study is available from Vanderbilt University.

The American Pregnancy Association and BabyFirst have information about premature infants' development and how parents can help their premature babies.

Sources:

A Pacifier-Activated Music Player With Mother’s Voice Improves Oral Feeding in Preterm Infants

Vanderbilt study shows mother’s voice improves hospitalization and feeding in preemies